Unreal Nature

February 14, 2015

Holes in the Universe

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:40 am

… Causation cannot be replaced by functional dependence … it fails to account for decisive determinants …

Continuing through Causality and Modern Science: Third Revised Edition by Mario Bunge (1959; 1979):

… Causality involves neither contiguity not antecedence, although it is consistent with both; indeed, causality is compatible with action at a distance — and instantaneous action at that, as gravitation was once supposed to be. [ … ] The principle of action by contact is moreover inconsistent with empiricism, as it is not directly testable by experiment; though reasonable and fruitful in the domain of physics, the hypothesis of nearby action may lose any significance in other fields of research — which is a further ground for not regarding contiguity as essential to causation. Contiguity and antecedence, on the other hand, each impose restriction upon causation.

States of physical objects are not agents but systems of qualities; consequently they have no causal efficacy. Initial states cannot therefore be causes but may be produced by previously acting causes. Hence causation is not reducible to invariable, unique, and continuous successions of states. Predictability by means of laws of succession is a criterion not of causal connection but of the validity of nomological hypotheses about time sequences.

… the empiricist theory that determination is nothing but regular, unique, and continuous succession not only is unwarranted by modern science but leads empiricism into contradictions that do not seem surmountable without a retreat from fundamental positions.

[ … ]

… Causation cannot be replaced by functional dependence, as romantics and neopositivists have demanded, because the category of interdependence lacks the essential component of genetic, productive connection. [ … ] Functionalism may do justice to all of the factors or facets concerned, but it fails to account for decisive determinants, that is, factors which in the short or long run determine the essential characteristics of a process.

An exaggeration of functionalism leads to the organismic view of the block universe, in which there is place neither for chance nor for freedom. But causality does not imply universal causal interconnection. While the latter excludes chance, causality leaves enough holes in the universe to let chance work as an ontological category (coincidence of independent causal lines, or mutually irrelevant processes).

Two further reproaches of romantic philosophers against causality are found to be unjustified, namely, that it is fatalistic and that it is mechanistic. Fatalism is a supernaturalistic doctrine asserting the unconditional (hence lawless) operation of transcendent determiners, whereas causalism is not committed to unscientific teachings, and respects the principle of legality. Moreover, causality affords means for achieving the freedom denied by both fatalism and accidentalism: if nothing is unconditional, then in principle nothing is inevitable, but every cause can be counteracted or at least controlled by another cause.

In that last sentence, I don’t see why “controlled by another cause” negates “inevitable.” He needs to account for the source of the “can be” of that statement. We’ll have to see where he goes with this. To be continued.

My most recent previous post from Bunge’s book is here.

-Julie

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